A recent article in Today’s Parent
has sparked debate on a topic I feel very passionately about: how do we best support mothers in reaching their feeding goals when it comes to their newborn babies?
The feeding plan is a tool nurses can use to support mothers in making informed decisions about their infant feeding goals. It might be breastfeeding or formula alone, or a mix of both. Fraser Health’s ultimate objective is to support women to do the best they can do and reach their own feeding goals. This is not a declaration or contract as some people have reported.
Like a birthing plan, the feeding plan can change day-to-day, depending on your circumstances. We know that 95% of women want to breastfeed; and we do what we can to help them do this. We also know that some mothers, for various reasons, choose to use formula, and our role is to provide as accurate information as possible so they can make informed decisions.
What I find most interesting is that our culture seems to be comfortable hearing about the benefits of breastfeeding but seems uncomfortable talking about the risks of artificial baby milks or formula. Research has shown that there are higher chances of colds, flu, ear infections, diarrhea and vomiting among other illnesses with formula use.
It is easy to turn to formula when breastfeeding challenges present themselves. Mothers who deliver their babies in Fraser Health are offered support and encouragement to increase their confidence and meet their own breastfeeding goals whether in hospital or at home in their community.
Breastfeeding is normal and for most babies any breastfeeding is good. If a woman is breastfeeding but is advised by a health care provider that formula is needed, formula is given as we would give a medicine – the right amount of formula for the right period of time can be very useful.
Nurses in Fraser Health support healthy decision-making and know that breastfeeding can improve short- and long-term health outcomes. We help women to do the best they can do with regards to infant feeding. We look at their particular set of circumstances, whether a baby or mother is admitted to an Intensive Care Unit, whether she has had a c-section, or has had a full-term, healthy baby.
Another way in which we support newborns to thrive is by supporting women with skin-to-skin contact with their babies. Women who have had straight-forward deliveries, difficult births or c-sections can all benefit from getting skin-to-skin contact with their baby. I know it’s not always easy, and a mother is free to say no to the offer. When this happens, fathers can step in and help a baby transition from being inside a warm, cozy environment, to one that is totally foreign to them. Skin-to-skin contact can stabilize a baby’s heart rate, blood sugars, temperature and other systems; contributing to successful feeding.
Infant feeding is an emotionally charged topic in our culture. Our job is to inform women with accurate information, let them make their decision and then support them to achieve their own feeding goals; all the while supporting the long-term health and well-being of both mother and baby.
Visit us for more information on Best Beginnings
for you and your baby.
Update: Wednesday, August 27
We value the public’s feedback on this issue and appreciate the concerns that have been raised about the Mother Baby Feeding Plan form. We recognize that this form does not reflect our intentions, which was to identify feeding options, educate families and support decisions in a manner that is compassionate and supportive. We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by the content of the form.
While breastfeeding is something we try to encourage, we understand there are circumstances where alternatives such as using formula, or a human milk bank, are necessary. Whatever the decision, it has to meet the needs of parents and infants.
Our objective is to support parents in reaching their infant feeding goals. We have decided to remove this form while we review it. A new one will be developed over the next few weeks in consultation with patients, clinicians and experts.
The birth of a baby is a joyous occasion and parents and their families shouldn’t feel apprehensive about the feeding decisions they make for their infant children. If you have received this pamphlet and are worried, please talk to your nurse or doctor, and they will help you make the right decisions for you and your baby.”
- Tamara Van Tent, Director of Maternity at Fraser Health